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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Ten Percent Of Molly Snyder Playwright: Richard Strand
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2001-06-13

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As long as there have been bureaucrats—and when in recorded history have there not?—there have been comedies premised on hapless citizens ensnared in labyrinths of officials concerned only with their own petty corner of The System. In Ten Percent Of Molly Snyder, the title character is a young artist seeking to correct a minor error on her driver's license. The clerk at the Department of Motor Vehicles advises her to leave well enough alone, but though Snyder's paintings reflect a mystical sensibility, her insistence on precision in real life is uncompromising.

Her faith in an orderly universe is undiminished even when her complaint leads inadvertently to a death certificate issued in her name—but then comes the Tribune's obituary, the subsequent seizure of her property, the boom in sales of her "last" works ( profiting not her, but her agent-;hence the play's title ) , and the realization that Molly Snyder might, indeed, be better off dead.

If this were a European period farce—by, let's say, Chekhov—it would conclude in this frustrated waif's suicide, following which business would continue as before. And if this were a modern American situation-comedy, it would finish with the complacent public servants undergoing a change of heart after being outsmarted or outgunned by the plucky heroine. But Chicago playwright Richard Strand tracks his Everywoman's descent into existential anonymity—which, to be sure, includes murder and suicide, but doesn't stop there—to its very end, a denouement that could as easily reflect the folly of Sweating The Small Stuff as capitulation to a faceless machine-like society.

That facelessness is rendered literally through the conceit of a single actor—in this production, the protean Troy West—playing all the representatives of the status quo, their offices distinguishable only by the window view, the name given to the wall color and the occupant's self-styled demographic ( at one point, he claims to be Asian, at another, Black, and at a third, female ) . Amy Warren conveys the struggle of the lone rebel besieged by smug deception. And director Edward Sobel paces what could have emerged as self-pitying propaganda at a crisp sprint to make the most of Strand's double-edged satire, assisted by Lindsay Jones' hilarious sound design. "Personality," that Lloyd Price R&B classic, will never sound the same again.


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